In the Spirit of Seva

In all of the season’s hustle and bustle, it is easy to forget the original intention of celebrating Christmas.  When I was young I used to wish Jesus a Happy Birthday on Christmas Eve  for I would inevitably forget his birthday the next day.  As a child, I was aware that Christmas was not supposed to be about the presents but about celebrating the spirit of giving.  However as an adult I seem to forget the spirit beneath Christmas.  Instead I become wrapped up in buying the perfect gift, the stress of rising credit cards and condemning the snow that slows my daily drive.  

Saint Nicholas (commonly recognized  as Santa Claus) was not a jolly man with reindeers, elves and a toy factory as celebrated by every mall and child across the country.  He was a man who sold all of his inheritance and spent his life committed to giving to the poor, sick and those in need.   Saint Nicholas was a man who believed in the value of selfless giving.   

Seva: A Self-less Service

In yoga this principle is referred to as Seva: a self-less service.  This Sanskrit word comes from two forms of yoga: Karma and Bhakti yoga.  Karma yoga is the yoga of action: it is developed around the idea of providing selfless acts without expecting a reward.  Bhakti yoga is devotional yoga:  by practicing this form of yoga you will bring yourself closer to God and divine love.   By giving seva you are providing an action of love and devotion.

Nationwide Yoga Studios Practice Seva

Yoga studios across the nation are conducting random acts of seva.  Aimee Firor Mcbride and Maria Garre co-owners of Ananda Shala yoga studio in Fredrick Maryland, are practicing seva in the month of November by providing yoga classes in exchange for a canned good.   In Calgary Alberta, they have launched the One Yoga event an 108 minute yoga charity event where all proceeds are donated to a variety of educational and enriching projects worldwide.   However, you do not have to own a business nor does it have to be a large act to conduct the art of seva.

Why Practice Seva?

Think of the times that strangers have opened the door for you, given you a seat on a bus or let you into a laneway of traffic.  These small actions put a smile on your face and can completely change your outlook on the day.   Now just imagine committing these small acts of kindness secretly.   You will provide surprise, happiness and a feeling of peace to someone else.   When you conduct a true act of seva  you should not expect a reward, compensation or even recognition  for what you’ve done.  By not anticipating a reward or acknowledgement, you are committing the act of giving solely for the purpose of providing the gift itself.    In addition, you will reap the reward of knowing you’ve committed a selfless act for the sole purpose of making someone else happy.

Simple Ways of Providing Seva:

* Shovel your neighbour’s driveway or mow their lawn
* Sign your organ donor card
* Buy a coffee  for the person behind you
* Be a courteous driver: let people into your lane
* Smile: seeing a happy face makes other people happy
* Top up someone’s parking meter

Celebrate this season by committing small acts of seva.  Take a moment to reflect and remember that the spirit of Christmas is not about purchasing gifts but giving someone else a moment of peace and happiness.

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